The Big Gay Town Hall 🏳️🌈
On October 10, nine of the presidential candidates participated in a town hall focused on LGBTQ+ issues, hosted by LGBTQ organization Human Rights Campaign. In a moment which made history, candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar was asked by Stonewall Democratic Club VP Ryan Basham,
"So you co-sponsored the SESTA FOSTA Act, which made it harder for sex workers to protect themselves by vetting clients online and harder for law enforcement to track potential criminals who may harm, kidnap or kill sex workers. I'm the vice president of the Stonewall Democratic Club, which is the nation’s oldest LGBTQ feminist and progressive political group, and a lot of our constituents are current and former sex workers. Many of them are people of color. Many of them are trans. Many of them are undocumented immigrants. So my question for you is, will you come out in favor of legalizing sex work, and what will you do to counteract the negative impact this law has had?"
While the answer from the Senator was deeply flawed [CNS News], saying she was against decriminalization, calling herself a leader on human trafficking instead of a leader in prioritizing police-forward and End Demand-style approaches, and pivoting to an entirely different law instead of SESTA, the moment itself was a significant marker in how far the issue has come into the mainstream dialogue since the last Presidential debate.
Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development and Mayor of San Antonio Julian Castro was asked about the issue after the Town Hall:
Ahead of the Town Hall, some candidates also released their LGBTQ-focused platform proposals. While none calls for decriminalization, Sen. Elizabeth Warren said she was open to decriminalization [Reason]. See Sen. Warren's full LGBTQ platform here. Mayor Pete, who also released an LGBTQ platform [PDF], weighed in with Out Magazine [out.com], saying that decriminalization was a conversation worth having, and noting "I certainly think we need to revisit the current legal framework and look at FOSTA and SESTA laws that were... set up with the best of intention about dealing with sex trafficking but may have actually endangered some people unintentionally." Sen. Bernie Sanders, who missed the Town Hall after a recent heart attack and surgery (which... that's a pretty legit reason. Get well, Senator), unfortunately, botched the question [Jezebel] on sex work pretty directly (yet again [Slixa Blog]). While not saying he is opposed to decriminalization, he "all sides-ed" the issue and immediately talked about trafficking.
Also at the debates, trans folks of color, especially Black trans women, interrupted the Town Hall to point out the lack of [Deadline] attention being paid to a level of violence that some are calling an epidemic. The Town Hall took place just one day after Itali Marlowe became the twentieth trans person [out.com] murdered in 2019 (some reports say 21st) – the fourth in Texas. Itali was 29 and living in Houston.
Canada is also coming up on a national election, and the issue has become similarly prominent, and over 150 organizations are calling for full decriminalization [Soo Today] of the sex trade.
Female customers [ABC News] are becoming an increasing portion of the client pool. So do we stop using "johns" or do we take seriously that names don't have an inherent gender designation?
Another sign of the sex trade broadening and going more mainstream? This weekend saw the second annual PornHub Awards.
Decrim At the City Level
This Thursday history will be made once more when the Sex Workers Action Coalition (SWAC) takes their bill to decriminalize sex work in DC to the City Council for a hearing. It will be the first time the bill will get a hearing before the council, and is slated for a full day. A week and a half ago, LGBTQ groups took a letter [Washington Blade] signed by 72 different organizations in support of the bill to the council. Want to support DecrimNOW in the lead up to the hearing? Here's how:
In Seattle, a recent City Council meeting erupted [Crosscut] over the issue of diversion programs for people who trade sex, and has only begun to bring a long-standing tension to light. The fight began over the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) Program, a pre-arrest diversion program where people who would typically be charged with specific low-level offenses are instead sent to services. The City Council was discussing funding needs to expand the program, which did not receive significant increases in the Mayor's proposed budget. When the subject came to serving sex workers, the council members came from a good place (we shouldn't be arresting), but the understanding of the issues stopped there. A responding officer said that sex workers were not right for the program (which was developed for substance users, not sex workers, so he's kinda right) and that some choose to engage in sex work, and the council members excoriated him for not seeing all of them as unwilling victims. The police department, in the face of being excoriated for of saying that maybe sex workers aren't all in need of rescue, went to Twitter to make their stance even worse:
The fight also comes on the heels of increased community complaints [Crosscut] of sex workers on the stroll post-SESTA, a rescue mentality [The Stranger] that has not served sex workers well, years of End Demand [The Intercept] funding and a city that has seen rapid gentrification (thanks, Amazon!). But perhaps the tides are turning? The city just gave a grant to a sex worker-led outreach group to provide more services, and hopefully have an even stronger presence in these conversations (link below to see more!) With so many cities across the country looking at implementing poorly-conceived and rescue-minded diversion programs (Hey there, Ohio! CATCH court is back! [Dispatch.com] ), Seattle is a place to watch.
A recent hack on the Dutch-owned site Hookers.nl [VICE] has exposed the details of 250,000 users.
Nye County, Nevada is looking to pass an ordinance that will only allow workers at the local brothels off the premises for up to six hours [Reno Gazette] for every ten days of work without being re-tested. Local workers are fighting the potential passage.
Also engaged in a fight to preserve local brothels is the country of Tunisia, where conservative religious groups and "women's rights" groups have been pushing to close the one legal area of the sex trade [BBC] left.
And to end on an uplifting note, for those in Vancouver, the city's Writer's Festival [The Peak] is bringing together 120 authors to talk about their work, including issues of sex work, colonization and mental health.
And with that. Back to the grind.